Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships were seen in the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) a few days after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Chinese vessels had left the disputed area.
Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, told a press briefing on Monday the Philippine Navy over the weekend confirmed the presence of two surveillance ships.
The CMS is the Chinese counterpart of the Philippine Coast Guard.
“They [Chinese ships] have been intruding into the area for some time now. Our position remains that Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) is an integral part of Philippine territory and China should respect our maritime entitlements,” Hernandez said.
Earlier, the department belied reports that Chinese ships have left Panatag, where Manila and Beijing had a two-month naval standoff last year.
Hernandez said there are no similar reports regarding the presence of Chinese vessels in the Ayungin Shoal, where a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels earlier intruded.
“We believe they come and go in the area [Ayungin Shoal],” he said.
Asked if the department will issue a note verbale against China, Hernandez said they choose when to protest Beijing’s intrusion into Philippine-claimed territories.
“We choose when it is appropriate. It is also important to know that other actions are being taken by the Philippine side together with our partners in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and through legal track like the arbitral proceedings, which we hope to proceed as soon as possible,” he said.
Last January 22 the Philippines brought its maritime and territorial disputes with China to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) for arbitration.
And although Beijing refused to join the arbitration case regarding its encompassing nine-dash claim that covers the whole West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Manila pushed on with the proceedings and gained the support of the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
Hernandez said the Philippine government is still awaiting the decision from the Itlos.
Making up the tribunal are Judges Thomas Mensah from Ghana, Jean-Pierre Cot from France, Alfred Soons from The Netherlands, Stanislaw Pawlak from Poland to represent China and Rudiger Wolfrum from Germany to represent the Philippines.
Sri Lanka’s Chris Pinto earlier resigned from the tribunal to avoid being criticized as partial since he has a Filipino wife. Mensah replaced Pinto.
Itlos President Shunji Yanai chose Pawlak for China since the country refused to nominate its representative to the tribunal.
BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON